Vietnam Wargaming Rules Review of Body Count

Ian and Nigel Drury, Tabletop Games 1988 (2nd Edition)

Bodycount RulebookThis was the first set of Vietnam rules which I purchased. As such I was not sure at the time as to their quality or authenticity. I must confess that I spent many nights with pen, paper and calculator rather than with model soldiers and tanks just trying to work out some of the calculations required in order to carry out basic tasks such as firing (a central feature of all rules!).

There are many ideas in the rules and many processes which have subsequently formed the nucleus of more recent and more playable rules sets. The only problem with Bodycount is that although the ideas are valid, the mechanics of putting the rules into action result in a very complex and, in my opinion, overly slow game.

Troops are rated for their quality in areas such as aggression, discipline, field craft etc. and these ratings have a direct bearing on the activities which the troops carry out. This is a good way to represent the differences inherent in the numerous troop types involved in the conflict and has been developed, refined and simplified in later rules to encompass Elite, Regular, Militia etc.

Movement is very straight forward for both troops and vehicles. Troops have different movement rates depending on the type of movement they opt to use and most troops will 'go to ground' if they are fired upon. One strong feature of the rules is that they make it very costly to be moving around when the lead starts flying unless you adopt crawl or advance by rushes movement.

Targets must be acquired before they can be fired upon . The acquisition rules, again, are quite convoluted but once understood they can be used quite quickly.

The real problem with these rules, and I mean the REAL problem, is the calculations involved in firing and casualty determination. The complexities of these necessitate a calculator, pen, paper and plenty of time! For example; small arms fire requires no less than seven steps, reference to 3 tables of decimal figures, several multiplications and divisions, indication of the fire frontage, two or three different modifications to the eventual result and so on and so on.... yes there are rules for close assault, air and artillery supporting fires, morale, grenades and punji sticks but they are all so slow!

I tried hard to make these rules work for me in my early days of wargaming Vietnam but I found that they increased my frustration and drove me to look for alternative rules quite quickly. In my opinion they belong to another period of wargaming which involved itself more with statistical analysis, complex algorithms, and a lack of pace or urgency - one thing they certainly did not induce, for me, was a smooth, fast, action packed and exciting game.

I do not recommend these rules to anybody, not because they are bad, just that they are outdated and better rules are now available. Despite my negative opinion of them, the Bodycount rules have nonetheless done a great service to Vietnam wargaming in general; they introduced many of the rules concepts which we now take for granted, they also (despite the over-complexity of their execution) tackled the problem of game mechanics surrounding this very particular kind of warfare. Subsequent writers of rules have built upon and simplified these concepts to establish a balance between playability and realism.

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